The Malawi national football team, the Flames, on Monday received a hero’s welcome upon arrival at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe from Namibia where they won 1-0 on Saturday in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.
Sports Minister Enoch Chihana led senior government officials who included Economic Planning Minister Ralph Jooma.
FAM second vice-president Pikawo Ngalamira was also at the airport to receive the Flames when they disembarked from a South African Airways flight.
Outside the VIP Lounge, hundreds of Flames supporters in national colours, led by Zacharia Kasakula and Austin Kasito, sang songs of jubilation.
From the airport, the team was taken to Sunbird Capital where they were treated to a sumptuous meal.
It was a fitting welcome for a team which has brought smiles on a country experiencing hard economic times.
Meanwhile, Vice-President Khumbo Kachali on Monday presented K400 000 (about $1 000) to the team as a token of appreciation for a job well done.
The victory over Namibia revived Flames’ 2014 World Cup campaign.
The Flames are now joint leaders with Nigeria in Group F on five points. Namibia are third on three points while Kenya are fourth on two points.
“I could not have been anywhere else. My presence here signifies the importance government attaches to the success of the national football team. We need to motivate them in every way so that they deliver the best,” the minister said.
Chihana has since called on FAM to immediately submit a calendar of events ahead of return legs against Namibia and Kenya in June.
“We want the team to have as many friendly games as possible before the real battle in June. I believe it is possible to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil,” he added.
Ngalamira assured the minister that they would submit a budget as soon as possible.
“It is good news to hear that government is ready to fund friendly matches for the Flames. We won’t waste time, but we will immediately identify teams and work out the expenses. It is prudent that the team resumes camp as soon as possible,” he said.
Leader of delegation Paul Mzungu thanked government for the hearty welcome.
“This is big motivation. As you have seen, the players are in high spirits. They deserve this welcome. They really played well,” he said.
Midfielder Ndaziona Chatsalira believes Malawi will make it to Brazil.